Monthly Archives: July 2015

Day 4: Rest day in Santo Marcos

I woke up about 5am, but I did not want to wake up Sue after her hard ride yesterday, so I happily dozed. Sue woke up about 6:30. While Sue was sorting out her charging stuff I tried out various ways of packing my daily bag to make everything fit better. It has been a struggle each day to get it shut. I have hit on a system that seems to work better.

Sue has 3 medium shortage banks for power plus a small one for the bike and a large one for her lap top . Plus note in the middle a kettle!

Sue has 3 medium storage banks for power, plus a small one for the bike and a large one for her lap top. Plus note in the middle – a kettle!

We went to the hotel for breakfast which was pretty minimal – 3 spoonfuls of scrambled egg and 3 pieces of white bread – luckily it’s not a riding day, that would only get us about 10 kilometres.

After breakfast, Brett, Sue and I had a look around the town. First we went to the lake which was not swimmable, but was interesting to see what was the main dock for the area. It was pretty small, about the size of a small car park. There was a longboat with an outboard motor getting filled up with stores, which it must then deliver to the outlying villages.


Longboat with outboard motor in San Marcos – takes stores to other islands

The loading dock for the long boat

The loading dock for the long boat

The city was filled with motor bikes and bikes again but also a few really old cars. One of first things we saw was a man with 5 chickens handing upside down, it was not until later that I realized they were still alive.

Mother and  Not sure if I would feel confident that my grandchildren would stay on but they are on bikes from babies.

A mother and child on a motorbike, I’m not sure if I would feel confident that my grandchildren would stay on, but here they are on bikes from babies.

One of the friendly locals in San Marcos

One of the friendly locals in San Marcos

The butcher and the fish sellers are on the side of the road. The fish seller had ice under the fish but the meat sellers did not seem to. We stopped and had a puréed watermelon drink with crushed ice which was very refreshing.


Fish seller in San Marcos


Butcher in San Marcos (editors note: I’m not sure what Mum is doing to get such blurry photos!!!)

The locals were very friendly and most were happy to have their photo taken, and often also coming up just to say hello. There were numerous stores selling everything from phones to live chicks.


Chickens for sale

We had lunch in town. We had seen a dog standing hopefully by one of the butchers both times we passed, it was quite thin and Sue – who is a retired Vet – thought it looked like it had eyesight issues. Well, the same dog turned up at our table and stood there hopefully with its head hanging, not begging intrusively. I gave it a scrap and it swallowed it up so quickly that I ended up buying it some food, after which it happily curled up to sleep.


We took a photo of the bike, and a local came along and wanted his photo taken

We then back to the supermarket for more water and some snacks to carry on the bike, after that back to the hotel to update the blog and download photos.


The “House Goods” aisle at the supermarket in San Marcos

I spent the afternoon downloading photos and generally being lazy, it’s too hot to do anything else. A bit daunting to think tomorrow we will be riding in it again.

Tonight a group of us went out to a local grill place, it was great, outside with a breeze. I had the ribs with salad, and something that tasted like solid banana – I gave that away. I am about to go upstairs to pack and get ready for 5 gruelling riding days.

The next 5 days riding look pretty challenging:

Stage 4: San Marcos to Caucasia
Biggest climb is only 105 metres, but 65 kilometres on an off-road dirt track, with the same temperature expected as today. Hopefully there will be better cover.

Stage 5: Caucasia to Alto Ventanas
Climb 2,000 metres taking us to 2,432 metres.
138 kilometres but should be a lot cooler as the day goes on as we climb.

Stage 6: Alto Ventanas to Barbosa
We climb 2,800 metres, but some down as well, overall gain in elevation for the day is 1,800.
119 kilometre ride.

Stage 7: Barbosa to Parque Avir
We climb 2,350, total gain in elevation for the day 2,400.
81 kilometres, 43 off road.

Stage 8: Parque Avi to Medeslin
Climb 2,620 metres, gain 600 metres.
Ride is 49 kilometres, then thankfully a rest day.

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Day 3: Tolu to San Marcos – 130k

306km down: 13,335km to go

Everyone slept better last night. It’s still hot, and so far I have slept with no covers at night. The rosters made their appearance about 4am.

I have been having trouble with my speedo on my bike which is a real issue as it’s hard to turn right at 33kilometres if your speedo is not working. I took it to the tour bike mechanic yesterday and thought it was fixed but it stopped going again today, just a couple of kilometres out of camp.  However, it was lucky that I had taken it to get the speedo looked at as the mechanic picked up there was a problem with my front brake – it was only clamping on one side. So much for spending a fortune at the bike shop before the trip to make sure it was all in working order! There was a screw stripped, and it took the mechanic ages to get the screw off and readjust the brakes so they worked both sides.

We had an early start today – breakfast at 6, to get on the road earlier because of the heat. Even so it was 7 before I got on the road.

Not sure how I managed it but I took a wrong turn before the Main Rd and ended up at a dead end in a paddock. Luckily some young local lads pointed me the right way. Then 2 kilometres later I nearly made a wrong turn again – that old confusion between left and right – but some locals yelled at me and pointed the other way. They had noted the other riders going the other way.

A number of the locals, especially the children, smile and wave and I have learnt hello. They helpfully point the way at some of the intersections also.

The planned ride was 134 kilometres. The first 20 kilometres was pretty good – still nice and cool, rolling hills, and I was feeling pretty ok.

I enjoyed looking at the local houses with their thatched roofs. There are chickens and chicks, pigs, cows, donkeys, and horses, all grazing on the side of the main road. They seem to have a really good road sense and don’t wander out into the traffic at all. They say the South American cows are quite smart, they are interesting looking – they have long ears and a hump on their back. A lot of them have a white bird hanging around – one white bird per cow. The birds eat ticks off them.

The locals have an interesting habit of painting the trunks of trees to match the colour of their houses, it makes for an interesting colour combo going along the street. The houses in the country side are very basic with thatched roofs, and one or two rooms, no plumbing. No running water, but a number of them must have a septic tank but the water is from a big drum and the shower is a bucket of water. The family generally sleeps in one room.

At most houses are chickens, at least one dog, and some have pigs – not so many cats. Although that could be because it’s baking hot and the cats are sensibly asleep out of the sun.

In the more built up area, the houses range from small dwellings with a couple of chairs in the main area, to some quite substantial ranches.

The main traffic here is trucks: large and small, motorbikes by the hundred carrying whole families, wood, shopping – I saw one with the passenger carrying three squirming, squealing pigs. No helmets to be seen. Then there are buses, very few cars, and people on horseback and in carts. There are so many roadside drink stops often a bit of shade, a few seats, and one glass front cooler.


Drink stops (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

At 20 kilometres the sweep caught up with me as I was the last rider. Three of the riders had gone in the lunch truck to start from 84 kilometres. The sweep is a tour staff member who rides at the back of the riders so will come across any one broken down or in trouble. They will either fix the problem or call for one of the vehicles. Erin, who was the mornings sweep, is a general surgeon from Switzerland who has taken six months off work. As well as being the sweep some days, Erin is one of the two medics on the tour. The other medic is Jodie, a trauma nurse and Paramedic.

It was my first time being the last rider, I expect it won’t be the last until I get fitter and thinner. My legs were tired by the previous two days riding, and overall tiredness from lack of sleep, but I was confident that if I took it slowly and drank plenty of water I would complete the ride. Although I did have to get off my bike part way up a steep long hill.

At about 55 kilometres the road got very uneven and a few pot holes. It was starting to get very hot and humid, and the sun was not covered by clouds as yesterday. I stopped to buy more water – some to drink, some to tip over my head.


The dirt road begins (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I got to 67 kilometres where the gravel road started. The first five or so kilometres were ok but then I started to suffer from the total lack of any shade, plus it was 42 to 43 degrees, it was insane. The next 15 kilometres were dreadful: biking for three to four kilometres, stopping and pouring some water over my head, then biking some more.

Even with applying sunblock every hour my arms were starting to burn so I had to put on arm warmers, plus I still had my legs warmers on as my legs had not recovered from the first day. This really did not help!

As well as this the dirt would turn to deep sand and you would get stuck. About 2 kilometres before the lunch stop, we stopped at a bit of shade. I was feeling a bit light headed and made the decision I was going to stop at lunch.

I got going again and made it to the lunch stop which was under three massive big trees. There was another rider – Nelson from Canada – who was also stopping at lunch. Nelson has done a lot of riding but, like me, could not cope with the heat. I had drunk about 6 bottles of water so hydration wasn’t the issue. Along the dirt track a number of trucks slowed down to check we were ok, which was nice. The locals are really friendly.

Having never got in the lunch truck to ride back to camp I was surprised how long it took to pack it all up. I am pleased I made the decision, as although I could have ridden the distance with the terrain, I don’t think I would have finished with the heat. The dirt road went on for another 30 kilometres with no shade! We picked up another rider 10 kilometres along also done in by the heat.

Along the way there were hundreds of anthill mounds, some impressively high –freestanding up to a metre high, and then some against trees and fence posts. I did not get a photo as I was in the truck, but am sure I will see some again.

Just after this we passed Sue who was riding with another rider, Mark from USA . They both gave the thumbs up signal (which means you don’t need the truck to stop) and big grins – or were they grimaces?!  A number of the riders told us that one of the locals had driven into town got cold water and driven back to give it out to them.

Got to the hotel … at about 4:30pm. It was nice to have a chance to get washing done, and sleep in a bed for two nights.  I am sharing with Sue. The room is very basic, and the shower is just like a tap on the wall with cold water, but the toilet flushes – amazing how quickly you come to appreciate that.  Plus they do your washing for a reasonable fee so I don’t have to find a laundry yet.

I had a shower and a cold beer, at that stage Sue came in, she was knackered – and she just finished riding the South African trip 2 months ago!

Once Sue had had a rest and a shower we went up the road, found the local supermarket and bought water etc. We were quite tired so just had something to eat there, got some water and a couple of cold beers, and came back to the hotel. On the way back we were amused to see three cows just wandering the street, one was pulling up the shrubbery by a house.

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Day 2: Finca to Tolu – 86k

176 km down: 13,465km to go

It is not so hot today. Got away from camp at 7:30, and got to next camp by 2.30.

Forgot to say yesterday: At camp, for 35 riders and 8 staff, there were two toilets and one shower. The shower consisted of a bucket of water, but damn it felt good.

Today was undulating until lunch, and then a slight incline or flat the rest of the way. The temp got up to 36 degrees again, but until lunch we had cloud cover.

The afternoon was hot and the bits that were shared by trees were very welcome. 5 kilometres from the end the temp dropped by 6 degrees as we neared the sea.

The camp is quite nice, had a bar where you can buy cold beer. Plus two showers: a men’s and a woman’s – a real bonus as there are only about 7 female riders.

Shady bar and Wifi area at camp (photo credit: Sue's facebook page)

Shady bar and Wifi area at camp (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I have my bike in the camp shop to get the speedo looked at as it’s not working, which makes it very had to follow directions if you don’t know how far you have come. Hopefully the bike mechanic can fix it.
So far I have forgotten pens and pad paper, which makes it hard to write the directions but I am taking a photo with the phone.

I am a bit daunted by tomorrow: 130 kilometres with a long dirt track with no shade. I may consider riding in the truck, will see what the info is at the riders meeting. Tomorrow night we get to stay in a hotel, so I can catch up on washing etc. I should sleep better tonight as it’s not as hot, and no bloody rosters.

I am planning to go for a swim as I don’t see the sea again until Peru.

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Day 1: Cartagena to Finca – 90k

90km down: 13,551km to go

The group!  (Photo credit: Tour De Afrique Instagram)

The group official start photo!
(Photo credit: Tour De Afrique Instagram)

We left the hotel and rode the first 20 kilometres in a convoy, then after that we rode at our own speed. It was so hot, it got up to 36 degrees! I’m not really used to the trip bike, have not done enough training, and am carrying too much weight – it’s not a great combination.

Official start photo!

Official start photo! (photo credit: Sue)

There was crazy traffic – big trucks, lots of scooters, horses, donkeys pulling wagons, people on motor bikes with long pieces of wood and chairs etc, whole families on the same bike. I saw milk urns being brought out to the road by a donkey. About every kilometre there were people selling mangos and water. There were quite a few check points and tolls, but bikes are able to go through for free. With the mangos you couldn’t buy just one you had to buy about 20 and I am already carrying enough weight with my gear on the bike. Every three kilometres or so there would be a highway bar run by locals with beer, water, and homemade lemonade. I bought a bit of water to pour over my head. The sun was beating down and there was a slight breeze but not enough to offset the heat. I stopped to put on sunscreen, but forgot to do my legs the first time I reapplied sunscreen and will need to wear leg warmers tomorrow to cover the sun burn on my legs but my arms were fine. Lunch stop was at the 60 kilometre point, I could quite happily have stayed there. Broke the afternoon into two stages.

Lunch stop (photo again stolen from Sue's Facebook page)

Lunch stop (photo credit: Sue)

I finally got to camp and it was still so freaking hot. We stayed at a farm for the night. There were so many chickens, chicks, ducklings, dogs and puppies, a donkey, one cat and – it turns out – roosters.

Arriving at camp

Arriving at camp (photo credit: Sue)

When I got there I had a sleep and woke up drenched. The camp was by a main highway and with the heat and the trucks it was hard to sleep. The rosters started about 4:30am and then the dogs and then the donkey chimed in. No one asked this morning “Did you sleep well?”. Some of the riders who have done a number of rides said it was the worse night they had ever had. I lay in my tent, dripping with sweat and thinking “Seriously, I want to do this because??”.

Categories: Columbia, Cycling trip, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

South American Epic: Section 1

Just to give you a bit of an overview of the first section that I’ll be riding:

Section 1

Section 1 (2)


The Experience
For many years the beautiful country of Colombia was avoided by travellers as it suffered through civil war. Times have changed for the better and we are excited to start the South American Epic Bicycle Expedition in this magical land. Mountains, jungles, waterfalls, coffee, beaches and thriving cities are just a few of this country’s gifts.

This 14,000km cycling extravaganza begins in the stunning colonial jewel of Cartagena whose old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We bike down the coast, stopping for cervezas in Tolu’s seaside bars. Turning inland, we’ll then cross cattle pastures and rushing rivers before beginning to climb up into the stunning Sierra de San Lucas Mountains. Following little known backroads we emerge at 1500m above sea level in the city of Medellin, where the cyclists will enjoy a well-deserved rest day.

From Medellin, we spin east and spend a night at Guatape, next to a man-made resevoir, before speeding downhill and across the impressive Rio Magdalena, which drains about 1/4 of Colombia’s area. Then it is a challenging climb up into the Cordillera Oriental, including one 2000m ascent over 50kms. For their efforts, the cyclists will be rewarded by Zipaquira, a beautiful historic town featuring the Salt Cathedral, an underground Roman Catholic church built within the tunnels of a salt mine. The next day, a Sunday, the SA Epic riders will have the opportunity to join local Bogota cyclists as they enjoy their weekly Ciclovia, with many of the city’s streets closed to motor traffic, a fitting end to this exciting and rewarding section.

Categories: Columbia, Information, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Friday – last day before the ride begins!

Sue and I went for a swim at the beach before breakfast. Even at 7:30 in the morning a swarm of hawkers appeared as soon as we set foot on the sand.

A hawker trying to sell me a necklace

A hawker trying to sell me a necklace (again, photo taken from Sue’s Facebook page)

The water was warm but not too warm, and a relatively safe beach.

Beach by hotel with city in background

Beach by hotel with city in background


The beach in front of the hotel in Cartagena

After breakfast we had the first riders meeting, got to meet everyone and go over the outline of the trip, what was expected etc. It certainly sounds like it is going to be very challenging, from hot and sticky to cold and windy. Through the Andes the temp is expected to be minus 4 at night. The first three days are relatively flat which means we should not have to spend too much time in the lowest gear. Then a rest day and then we start to climb some pretty gruelling hills. I suspect there will be a fair amount of pushing my bike in the first month or so until I drop some weight and get fitter.

The trucks

The tour trucks

After the riders meeting Sue and I went into the walled city to have a last look around. We had lunch at the square in the middle. I had a very good friend whilst I was eating – a small pregnant dog who stayed until I had shared the last scraps, and then she was off. In the time we were at the table we had about 25 hawkers trying to sell us stuff. I have learnt not to smile or be too nice when saying no or they take that as encouragement.

My friend

My friend at lunch

We had to be back at 5pm as someone from the Colombian government (to do with tourism) wanted to come and wish us well. After that off to the bar for a cold beer then up the road for something to want. Than back to finish packing and sorting stuff into my bags – my daily bag and my rest day bag (we can’t access the stuff in that until the rest days).

The ride starts tomorrow!

5:50 am – bags to the truck
6:15 am – riders meeting
6:30 am – breakfast
7:00 am – leave hotel

We are doing a 90 kilometre ride, with the first 30 in a convoy.

Tomorrow night will be my first night in my new tent.

I am unsure what the internet coverage is going to be so there may well be gaps in the blogs, and then 3 days at once.

I have decided that I am going to be a racer – not because I am expecting to be fast – but if you identify yourself as a racer your time gets clocked in and out of camp each day, and I think it will be interesting to collate how many hours I spend on the bike.

Street in walled city

Street in walled city


Hats for sale (Editors note: Really Mum? This is the best photo you could do? Check out Sue’s photo where you can actually see the hats!)

Categories: Columbia, Preparations, South American Epic | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Thursday in Cartagena

I ended up staying awake until really late. Bit of a time zone problem still, so was a bit later to breakfast. Met up with some of the riders from yesterday, plus some who had arrived since breakfast yesterday. Traded a few stories about who knew who, what rides people had done etc. Met one rider who did the Trans-Europa last year – this was the one I did in 2012. I caught up with Brett at breakfast who did the Trans-Europa the year I did. Great to see him and catch up with his news. Brett has done 3 more rides since the Trans-Europa, and is on track to be one of the first – if not the first – to complete the “7 Epics” (the company has 7 big rides they call the epics).

At breakfast a small group of us decided to walk along the shore to the old city. The water was warm but not nearly as warm as the hotel pool. I have not gone swimming in the pool as the water is as hot as a bath. Half way to the walled city my new hat decided to unravel and fell apart completely. Sue took some photos as I modelled different ways of wearing an unravelling hat. It disintegrated completely just as I got to the walled city.

My hat unravelling

My hat unravelling (photo copied from Sue’s Facebook)

All the way along the beach there were hawkers trying to sell us fruit, drinks, sunscreen, sun glasses, shady tents to use when on the beach, and ice blocks. Once we got to the walled city, this was replaced by hawkers trying to see t shirts, paintings, hats, sunglasses, and food of every description.

After wandering the outer walls we made for a square, and sat down for a cold drink. We had a constant stream of hawkers. Mostly all very good natured but the occasional one was a bit OTT. One of the young riders Rob (approx 23 year old) said about 10am in the morning he was offered drugs, cigars and prostitutes.

Square at Walled City market where we stopped for a drink

Square at Walled City market where we stopped for a drink

After the cold drink we went to the gold museum and to the Navel Museum then the clock tower. After this we needed to get back to put the bikes back together. It was too hot to walk back again so we hopped into a taxi.

It took a while to put the bike together, so after this it was time to retire to the bar for a cold beer. Afterwards a group of us went up the road and had pizza. Mine was very nice: anchovies, capers, cheese – what’s not to like.

At the Gold Museum - Example of gold works made by 15th century inhabitants of Cartagena

At the Gold Museum – Example of gold works made by 15th century inhabitants of Cartagena

Clock tower in the walled city

Clock tower in the walled city

Categories: Columbia, Preparations, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Technophobe Tourist

I met a few of the other riders at breakfast this morning. So far, apart from two of the riders, everyone has done at least one ride before. It was great catching up on other rides, and swapping tales of tours.  One rider and I got on really well – Sue from England, we are similar ages. Sue has had issues with her flights because of one flight being late, missing the connection, then having a 12 hour delay, then getting here with no bags or bike. At this stage Sue had been here since Monday and it was now Wednesday. Sue was understandably starting to worry how she was to replace a bike and her gear by Saturday morning.

Sue on the left and Annegrete on the right, Sue is doing the whole trip, Annegrete is doing till the end of October (Editors note: The photo of Annegrete was stolen from Sue's blog, as the photo Kaye took was terrible)

Sue on the left and Annegrete on the right, Sue is doing the whole trip, Annegrete is doing till the end of October
(Editors note: The photo of Annegrete was stolen from Sue’s blog, as the photo Kaye took was terrible)

Next I headed off by taxi to an inner city mall where according to Google there was an Apple Store. Took about 20 minutes by taxi and I thought this will cost a bit! It actually cost 10 peso, which is approximately 6 NZ dollars. Once I got there I got directions and made my way to the store. It turned out it was not an apple shop at all, it was more like a Noel Leemings! It did sell iPads and iPhones but had no specialist staff. I did buy a new charging cord in case that helped the charging issue.

I thought I may as well get a charger for the phone while I was there but no luck at this store. After a lot of miming and showing of the camera charger, I got directed to a shop called Panamericana which they wrote down on paper for me. No luck there but one of the shop workers took me to a shop called Audio Color, once again no luck but they directed me to a shop called Home Centre. Each time I had to find my way around a 4 story super mall. I got to Home Centre, it was huge, like a Bunnings but bigger! It sold everything from paint to doors, tools and tyres. However there was a bit of a language barrier and they were showing me a lot of stuff that was not a wall connector. Luckily I got out the iPad connector to show as an example, confusion overcome and a minute later I had one.

Back to the hotel, sorted out some photos and emails, then made my way to the lobby bar at 6pm.  Met up with a few more riders, had a few cold beers and we made our way up the road to eat. We went to an Argentine grill place to eat. The food was very average but the company was good. Thankfully when we got back to the hotel there was Sue’s bike and bags!

Cartagena version of the $2 shop

Cartagena version of the $2 shop

Don't think I will go quite this far to eat like the locals

Don’t think I will go quite this far to eat like the locals

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Tourist in Cartagena

I arrived at the lobby to wait for the tour just before 2pm.  I waited for a while and then a man came in and spoke to a family group and turned to leave again. I went up to him and said my last name, he checked on his list, and yes there I was.

The tour was scheduled from 2pm to 6pm, the first 40 minutes was spent picking up other tour group patients from adjoining hotels. The traffic is as crazy here as it was in Santiago, and like Santiago they use a system of tooting which somehow leads to them not crashing into each other, although it seems like a pretty close call at times. Finally all the other riders collected, and off we go.

Tour bus for guided city tour

Tour bus for guided city tour

It is really warm, I feel like I could melt. On the tour, instead of having headphones and being able to choose a language, it was all in Spanish.  The view was interesting so I was not too concerned apart from worrying when we got off at the first stop to make sure I got back on the bus on time. The guide realized at the first stop when he spoke to me that I had no idea what he was saying, and after that he gave me a brief summary explanation of everything he said.

First of all we stopped just below the Castillo San Felipe De Barajas, aka “The fortress”. There was a Colombian women there in traditional costume with a platter on her head. I really wanted to take her photo but every time I was ready to click she would turn away. It took me a while to realize this was her job, and of course I could take her photo – once we had agreed on the price.

Colombian woman in front of Castillo San Felipe Barajas (the fort)

Colombian woman in front of Castillo San Felipe De Barajas (the fort)

To get to the fortress involved walking up the slope in the beating glare of the sun. The fortress is positioned on the hill of San Lázaro, where its strategic position dominates approaches from the land and the sea. The work on this fortress started in 1536 and it has had a number of additions. It is built in such a way that there is a series of walls wide at the base and narrow towards the parapet forming a formidable series of bunkers. The batteries and the parapets project each other making it practically impossible to take a battery without taking the whole defence system. There is a complex maze of tunnels and it is ventilated with grates. This is the most formidable defence complex of Spanish military architecture.

Inside the fortress

Inside Castillo San Felipe Barajas


Tunnels inside the fort

In the  View from Castilo San Felipe Barajas

View from Castilo San Felipe Barajas
In the photo you can see a wall that is around the walled city, then it changes at the end of the wall to the new city

Back in the tourist bus and off to the La Popa monastery, the highest point in Cartegena at 150 meters. Getting up there was a bit scary, going around sharp, steep, and windy corners, and often only enough room for one car. Not that driving around a sharp corner you couldn’t see around seemed to slow the driver down at all. However it turned out that going up was a relaxed Sunday afternoon drive compared to the nail biting ride down.

Up the top there were some great views unfortunately at this point my camera battery failed so took a couple of photos with the iPhone. I will have to consider getting a backup battery but first off I need to get a connection for the charger. There were quite a few stray dogs up the top but all seemed relaxed and once again no begging.

There are also stray dogs in Cartagena - quite a lot  They are really good at crossing busy roads. Plus the local drivers are more inclined to stop for them than tourists

There are also stray dogs in Cartagena – quite a lot
They are really good at crossing busy roads. Plus the local drivers are more inclined to stop for them than tourists.

Back through town to the old city. There were buses, bikes, people pushing carts, horses with carts, a donkey with a cart, bicycles with and without carts, pedestrians, stray dogs, yellow taxis darting in and out of street corners, other cars, street vendors performing at intersections, and roadworks all competing for the same stretch of road. All the vehicles were constantly tooting!  Loud music from a number of the vehicles, total chaos! But everyone seemed to get to where they wanted to go.

We arrived at the walled city. Construction began in 1631, the walls are up to 20 meters thick and 12 meters high, and approx 12 k in radius. There are hotels, shops, bars and residences etc in there. On the outskirts are the street hawkers and it gets more expensive the further you get into the middle. We got to go on a walking tour of some of it. It’s pretty amazing and I need to go back and take a fully charged camera. The walled city was also busy with horse and carts, heaps of people, street vendors and taxis but nowhere near as busy as the new city.

Walled city wall, 20 feet thick, 12 feet high - made from coral

Walled city wall, 20 feet thick, 12 feet high – made from coral

Most of the good restaurants are contained within the walled city, so another reason to come back. We got taken to an emerald shop supposedly to learn about how to tell if an emerald is real or not. But really it’s all about getting a captive group to sell to.  I had been thinking of getting a pair of emerald earrings as a reminder of this trip like the amber earrings from my Trans Europa trip. The price however was way more than I was willing to pay for the pair I really liked so I was not going to buy. When I said no, the price went down again and then again, and just as I was about to leave the shop it went down to half of the original price – so I bought them. By this time it was dark and the city looked very impressive all lit up with strategically placed lighting.

We got back to the hotel an hour later than expected. The security at the hotel is quite tight and until they get to know you, you can’t get in without your guest ID card. I got to the front door and could not find mine, I went through everything with me and finally found it. Once I got back to my room I realized my wallet was missing and that I had left it on the entrance table whilst looking for my guest ID, so I sprinted back to the reception area. Such a relief when I rushed through the door to see the security guard waving my wallet at me.

I then walked around a few of the locals shops to see if any of them have a connection for the camera charger to be plugged into prior to being plugged into the wall but no joy. Luckily the hotel did have one I could borrow for a couple of hours.

Back at the hotel I tried to download photos from my iPhone but although it showed as being connected to the wifi network it wasn’t. I know this because anything I tried to send I got a message informing me that it was not connected to the Internet. I tried forgetting the network, turning it off and on, checking the settings to no avail. Then I thought “I know I will download the user Manuel for a 4s!”. This downloaded perfectly, but was it was all in Spanish – what the sh**t. Then my iPad would not charge even though it had the charger lead in and was being charged in the same plug as previously! Arrgghh! I Decided tomorrow I would go to an iPhone and IPad store and get this all sorted.


Vendors on the way up to the fort

Vendors at the bottom of the fortress Note no grass, plus the council worker in the green suit these guys are everywhere

Vendors at the bottom of the fortress
Note no grass, plus the council worker in the green suit, these guys are everywhere.

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Photos and videos from Santiago

Grafitti in Santiago

Graffiti in Santiago


More graffiti in Santiago

Dinner show in Santiago

Dinner show in Santiago


The wiring in Santiago

The Andes seen from the  tour bus in Santiago

The Andes seen from the tour bus in Santiago

Two thirds of the way up the furnicular in Santiago

Two thirds of the way up the furnicular in Santiago

The Andes through the smog from the top of the furnicular

The Andes through the smog from the top of the furnicular

The tallest building in Santiago.  Actually second tallest building in Southern Hemisphere and tallest in South America. Cost $1 billion to build, is 300 meters high

The tallest building in Santiago.
The second tallest building in Southern Hemisphere and tallest in South America. Cost $1 billion to build, is 300 meters high.

University just for Catholics in Santiago

University just for Catholics in Santiago

Fish market in Santiago -note the interesting roofs of vendors on outskirts

Fish market in Santiago – note the interesting roofs of vendors on outskirts

Bumpy middle lines on roads in Santiago

Bumpy middle lines on roads in Santiago

Bike stands such as this found around the city in Santiago

Bike stands such as this found around the city in Santiago, put in a coin and go


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